Friday, 8 July 2016

Artistic Endeavours 'By Numbers'.

Cross stitch with
silk, beads and

The advent of colouring books takes me back to my childhood. I loved colouring books and in those days we could let our imaginations run wild - we chose which colours we wanted to use.

Later came painting by numbers and now we have the less messy pencils. I understand that fans of these new magazines find it soothing to sit and colour a picture. Me? I wish I could paint as my late father did but I can't.

My artistic bent is more along the lines of embroidery. Nowadays - and it has been for a very long time - counted cross stitch is the 'fashion'. More doing it by numbers!

The great pity for me is that I love doing 'proper' embroidery using a host of varying stitches. Unfortunately it is very difficult to find pre-printed fabric or even stencils and fabric. The last time I managed to purchase pre-printed fabric - in the early 1990s - the material was dreadful. I think is something that my mother's generation called crush. It was difficult to get the needle through this cheap fabric.

My favourite type
of embroidery

It was also some time in the 1990s that I managed to buy a 'repeater' stencil. (You damp ironed it onto the fabric as many times as you need). Fabric? None to be found so I resorted to a white sheet and made a table cloth and napkins.

I find doing embroidery both restful and a help when I am at the creative stage of writing a novel. Doing two jobs at the same time!

Take up colouring books? No, not possible. I have repetitive stress injuries in my right wrist, elbow and shoulder. Writing? I use a fountain pen - in short spurts.

Table Cloth made from
a sheet. 

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Getting to Know the Neighbours

It is now nearly two months since I moved to this lovely new flat in Bognor Regis - on England's south coast. It is known as the 'sunniest' place in England. Not sure about that as we haven't had much of that since I've been here but today it is glorious.

I should explain that we have two lifts (elevators) - one for odd numbered floors and one for the even numbered ones. Mostly I have met people in passing and we have exchanged the time of day or chatted about the weather. The latter being a very popular English subject! So far I have encountered mostly Brits and Poles but I did once see a Moslem couple. As we were about to use different lifts there wasn't time to do more than smile at them so I don't know where they are from.

This morning I was a little later than usual going out for my walk (got it up to a mile a day along the promenade) and met two gentlemen in the lift on the way down. One didn't break into a smile but the other - yummy! Even ladies of my age can get turned on by a good looking man. We chatted about the weather while I admired his physique, dark hair and eyes and listened to his lightly accented English. Turns out he is from Poland and he told me that this morning his family in Poland say that at the tops of the mountains have a temperature of 0, yes, zero!

As he was wearing shorts (lovely legs) I assume that he was also about to do a walk but I was too much of a coward to go in the same direction. He was probably going to jog anyway and I am well past that capability.

I am gradually getting to discover the delights of Bognor and know that I am going to enjoy living here more than I did in my last village/small town where the biggest problems were far too much traffic and far too little neighbourly interaction. And, believe me, I tried to get to know them.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

A Tin Mine, Me and the Indonesians

'This the first time we meet lady mining engineer,' the little Indonesian man told me.

I smiled at him. 'I am not a mining engineer. I work on The Mining Journal.'

'Ah yes. The Mining Journal. We know.'

This was in the mid-1960s and The Mining Journal, a weekly magazine, in those days was air mailed around the world. It was also a time in history when the British Government and Indonesia were not officially on speaking terms. Where were we? In Cornwall and about to go down into one of the last (maybe the last) working tin mine.

We were all very stylishly dressed - overalls, boots and helmets. On my arrival I had had to sign a disclaimer absolving the company in the case of accidents, then handed overalls and shown to a room where I could put them on. Knowing it would be hot underground I took off my trousers and shirt and discovered that the overalls were rather too large and missing buttons. Fortunately I had a supply of large safety pins in my bag. The dishy looking man who was taking care of me grinned when he saw the pins. I should confess that at this stage I was unaware of the presence of the Indonesians and looking forward to going down into the tunnels with Handsome.

Then it was time for the boots - about four inches too long - and a helmet. This was okay until the lamp was fitted onto the front and my neck disappeared into my shoulders. Was it ever heavy! Then came the fun of putting on the webbing belt to hold the battery - large and heavy - at the back of my waist. I think my knees buckled.

Following my introduction to the Indonesians we were given various instructions before getting into the cage and dropping down into the depths of the world. Then it was walking and climbing up and down rungs set into the walls. My feet weren't much help there as the boots were too long but at least Handsome stayed behind me, presumably to catch me if I fell.

It was all very eerie as the only illumination was from our lamps. When one of the Indonesians realised my lamp didn't always point in the right direction he made me take off the helmet, made an adjustment to the fitting strap and I put it back on. It fitted! Until then my head had moved around inside it.

I shan't bore you with the details of tin mining. We were shown seams of tin ore and various other minerals and had it all explained to us.

Eventually we returned to the surface and divested ourselves of the helmets, I said goodbye to my Indonesian friends, then went to change back into my own clothes.

Hmm. No date with Handsome. Well he was probably happily married.

Later, whenever I thought over that special visit, I thought that I and my little men must have looked like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs! I did enjoy myself but wouldn't want to go down another mine thank you very much.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Buy to Rent Landlords

Although I am sure there are some excellent private landlords somewhere 'out there', my experience leads me to the conclusion that most are get-rich-quick merchants and b....r the clients.

Slap on a coat of paint, lay cheap (maybe secondhand) carpet, put up past their use by date curtain rails, install a reconditioned oven (which is usually fitted by cowboys and never works properly), cowboy double glazing (which leaks), double or even thirdhand night storage heaters. Everything which ticks the boxes for the legal 'rating' and because no officials check it out, passes as up to standard.

Client moves in, discovers faults and begins complaining. So does the landlord because he has to spend money. Eventually client gives up complaining and landlord relaxes. Then gradually increases the already inflated rent.

One landlord I've heard about had two rental flats in 2010 and in 2015 had eight and had given up the day job. Says it all, doesn't it? Wonder if he now drives a Rolls Royce?

A couple I met who had had to give up their house because they couldn't afford the mortgage and affiliate house owning expenses told me that they are now paying more for rent than they had for the loan.

This bubble will eventually burst but in the meantime tenants are getting ripped off.

Monday, 2 May 2016

On the Move

Yet again I am moving, I have been in the current 1 bedroomed flat for over six years. My new flat has two bedrooms and the rent is lower. It has also just been completed renovated, has a brand new kitchen (with all new white goods), a balcony and there is a lift! No more lugging shopping and library books up staircases.

At the moment my living room seems to be more boxes than furniture. And still more boxes to get packed. I know it seems never ending but I WILL get the packing done before the move in two weeks' time.

So far the only personal damage has been to my finger nails (now there's a surprise!) and a badly scraped shin. I had managed to get up onto a chair without incident twice. The third time not so lucky. Lost my balance, put down my left leg and scraped the shin. Yuck. The major problem is that I have acute hearing which affects the balance. Note to self - use the steps.

It would be nice if there was a Fairy Godmother to come and wave a wand so that the packing would get done so much more easily, but I don't really know anyone younger and stronger than me who isn't out at work. Or has other things to do.

For the moment, That's all folks!

Monday, 11 April 2016

Sid Buckman - a Family Star

'That's my cousin,' Mum told me as the man on the radio began singing.
'Who is he?'
'Sid Buckman. My cousin.'

This conversation, if it could be called that, took place some time in the late 1940s and was the first time I had heard of Mum's cousin. As you will realise, they weren't good at keeping in touch.
Over the years I garnered various bits and pieces of information which, as it was before the computer age, was word of mouth - from Mum.

What I gathered of Sid's childhood was that his father died young, his mother couldn't afford to keep him so he became a Barnado's Boy. Which is where he learned to play the trumpet and, I presume, to sing.

In the 1920s he was playing with a small group until spotted by Billy Cotton (Mr. Wakey-Wakey). Sid stayed with the Cotton band until Billy was taken ill and the musicians dispersed. Then Sid's expertise and talent were fully recognised by the American bandleader Roy Fox. As well as being lead trumpeter and vocalist Sid was Fox's right hand man. With this band he made numerous recordings, some of which are now available on CD.

Unfortunately at the end of the 1930s due to Roy Fox's ill health, this band also 'dis-banded'.
I believe that during the war years Sid played with various bands and, by the time Mum brought him to my attention, he was with the Charlie Shadwell Band which was a part of the BBCs 'backbone' of bands.

 It also toured the country and in 1953 was doing a summer season in a huge tent on the green in Paignton, Devon. Which is when I met him.

We went to a matinee and in the interval went to the stage door. One of the musicians came out, took a look at Mum and said, 'You must be Sid's sister.' Both with prematurely white hair and the same blue eyes.

Sid eventually retired and died in 1981.

Does musicianship run in the family? I play piano, have played guitar and done my share of singing.

Sid's Mum was my grand-dad's sister bearing the name Linley. If you know your musical history.....
Soprano Elizabeth Linley married Richard Brinsley Sheridan. Her composer brother was a friend of Mozart and her father founded the Bath Opera and helped fund the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane (before it burned down!).

No, I'm not sure whether we are direct descendants but you never know what you might find in your history.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Dry Eye, Blepharitis or an Allergy?

Do you suffer from dry eye? Or been told by your doctor that this is what you have?

I have - about four times, twice by doctors as they signed prescriptions for eye drops. And they have included anti-biotic, false tears and some gel ones. Nope, none of them worked, only aggravated my eyes. Eventually I decided to stick to a mild over-the-counter eyewash which works.

The third doctor diagnosed Blepharitis, printed off a copy of the information and the prescription for get type drops.

Having read the information sheet I came to the conclusion that Blepharitis is a 'catch-all' name as three conditions associated with it are: Seborrhoeic dermatitis, rosacea or - wait for it! - dry eye syndrome.

Apparently there is no one-off cure for Blepheritis. You are told to follow a set of treatment rules. Unfortunately, whoever came up with it hasn't made any allowance for people with various disabilities:

Gently press the eyelids with a facecloth soaked in very warm water for 5-10 minutes.
If you cannot bend over the basin how do you do this? Someone suggested carrying the wet cloth into the bedroom and lying on the bed! Oops, water on the floor, bed and clothes. And, of course, by the time you are prone, the flannel will be cold. 
I won't bore you with the rest of this treatment.

A suggested alternative is a reusable heat bag which you put into the microwave. I did buy one but as I have Repetitive Stress Injuries in my arms and shoulders and it is heavy I couldn't hold it up to my eyes. Neither can I lie on my back for the required length of time. 

In order to try to prevent recurrences you are also recommended to carry out this eye and lid hygiene every day. 

I eventually sorted out my own 'cure' which may have worked or my eyes may have cleared up by themselves. As I also had a rash (nettle?) on my upper chest I assumed I was having an allergic reaction to something(s).

My 'Cure'

Whenever my eyelids itched I filled the basin with hot-hot water and held the flannel over my eyes for a few seconds at a time for as long as my back would let me. Dried my eyes, gentle massaged the lids then applied Simple Eye Balm to the lids and around the eye area.
Now I do this every morning, takes less than five minutes and, fingers crossed, might help to keep 'it' at bay.

If anyone has any more suggestions for alternative ways to deal with this all of us sufferers would appreciate them!